Monday 22 December 2014

For the Love of a Father

There's an old yet very true saying, "People come into our lives for a reason, a season and a lifetime" and when certain people do, you know almost instantly why they have and live in gratitude to whatever higher being you believe in for bringing them into your life.

My present boss is one such person.

I've spent many nights and therapy sessions overcome with emotion just thinking about how much of an impact he's had on my life over the 3 years I've worked for him.

When I first started working for him, I had just moved out of home only 3 weeks earlier and was desperately looking for work in order to really get my new life started. I also had a lot of psychological scars from my last boss which I was still healing from and he picked up on them fairly soon into me starting and constantly reassured me I was doing well and that we all make mistakes.

I recall one particular occasion when I'd made an error and my boss told me very simply and casually to just correct and not worry about it, that he'd rather I make a mistake in everything and learn from it than make the same mistake repeatedly which he said was a pet peeve of his. It was the permission I needed to breathe a sigh of relief that things were going to be okay.

At first his frequent use of endearments through me off. I wasn't used to hearing a male use such emotive or heartfelt endearments, the only time my previous boss ever did (from what I could understand of his accent) it made me cringe. My dad has never said anything like that either. He and mum have their own terms of endearment which aren't overly romantic, but that's about it. When I realized he occasionally used the same words when talking with other females I acknowledged that it was just part of his personality and came to appreciate them for what they were.

Fairly early into the job he praised me for the work I was doing and told me that I was one of the best things to happen to the company in a long time. I wasn't used to being given a compliment of such magnitude and stored it in my 'to process later' mental box.

The working relationship that developed between my boss and I was and still is unlike any other that I've had. I've told him countless times how much he reminds me of my dad which explains why I get along so well with him. It's incredibly refreshing and confidence building to have someone you connect with who just gets you, encourages and supports you because they believe that you're worth it, even if you don't or haven't in the past.

On the last day of work before Christmas of the first year of me working for him, he gave me a kiss on the forehead before wishing me a Merry Christmas, happy holidays and all the rest. It was just a simple gesture, but it was so powerful too. I'd never had a father figure show me that sort of affection before. Like how a father would kiss a child goodnight after reading them a story, then wish them sweet dreams and turn out a nightlight.

Later the following year I had some emotional baggage come up that I had to sort through which required me to keep a distance from my family in order to process everything I was feeling. This time it was directed at my dad. A part of my therapy I'd started writing letters to people who had had profound influences on my life and my dad was no exception.
I opened up to my boss, knowing that he himself is a father and incredibly close to his daughter as I am with my dad. I gave him the letter I'd written to my dad and asked him for his take on it from a father's perspective.
He told me many things, firstly giving me another example of how much a part of the business and consequently his life I was, he then told me that when he'd first met me he knew I was a 'go-getter' and continued to describe me in the way that my dad had when detailing my life up to the age of about 7 or so. The person he described seemed so different from the person I was or had been for so much of my life that I wondered if he wasn't referring to someone else entirely.
I realized that in a different kind of way, my boss had found that little girl in me that my dad had talked about and gave me the support, encouragement and space to find her again, to grow into and become her, just a bigger and better version. He'd helped me open the cocoon I didn't realize I'd built for myself and was giving me all the freedom I could possible need to spread my wings as far as they'd stretch.

The year after, I started to question what I really wanted from life now that I had the courage and was developing the self-confidence to actually go for it, and what my current position of employment could provide me on my journey to find out what my life's purpose is. I wasn't sure on a lot of things, I just felt like I needed to do something, so I announced that I was looking to finish up at the end of the year in order to pursue something else although I had no idea what that was.

Needless to say my boss was both shocked and surprised, and I'm almost certain, more than a little bit hurt by my declaration. After I explained my position and thought process he said he understood and reiterated as he had some many times before, that he'd always support whatever decision I made, granted I don't think he necessarily meant one that would see me leaving the company.

A few weeks later when he was driving me out to the middle of nowhere to inspect a car I was interested in (yes, he's really that awesome!) he asked me what I was thinking of doing job wise after my announcement. I admitted I didn't have a plan and was just leaving the door open for whatever was meant to come my way. He said it was completely understandable and suggested that I might rather reduce my hours in order to pursue my other interests on the side. I told him it was definitely something I was keeping in my but had nothing set in stone as yet. He then told me that he couldn't imagine the office without me. Another profound yet simple statement that simultaneously broke my heart and filled me with an incomprehensible amount of happy emotions.

He was the first person EVER to fight for me, to try to keep me. That spoke volumes.

My old boss told me upon acknowledging I was going to leave that as much as he didn't want me to, he wanted me to be happy. I was thrilled when he asked me if I wanted to finish up a week earlier.

When I broke the news to my dad that I was moving out, he told me he wouldn't be able to protect me if I wasn't at home. Maybe that was his way of fighting for me, but maybe he also knew it was something that I had to do for the sake of the family and although it broke his heart, he needed to accept it.

Sometime later, after attending a Careers Expo to get some kind of inspiration, I decided that enrolling in university would be a much better fit and when I had nothing to do at work, I could do my studies and get paid at the same time. It was the most certain and decisive I'd felt about my future quite possibly ever.

When I put the suggestion to my boss, he jumped on the opportunity and told me if it was a choice between me working less hours or leaving the company, it was a no brainer. He also told me if need be that I could use his old essays stored somewhere on the computer database as inspiration for when I needed it. He said it was also beneficial for me knowing that I have stable employment while I'm studying and having a decent place to study in too.

Before enrolling for uni and shortly after receiving my tax return, I told him I was looking at getting a car and wanted to do so sooner rather than later as I would be more inclined to spend my refund on other things. When I randomly stumbled upon a car which looked decent and showed him the specs, he told me to contact the seller and ask how soon we can organize an inspection, then promptly started packing up and preparing to head off to take a look at the car in question.

A few evenings later I followed my boss back to my place in my brand new secondhand car and thanked him earnestly for helping me become a car owner. He told me I'd done all the hard work and he was more than happy to help. Just another simple yet incredibly profound act. I realized then that he loved me. No one, not even my own father had ever gone to that much effort to help me. If anyone else had, surely I'd have remembered it.

Towards the end of last year, I decided it was time to buy a new phone. Upon receiving it I noticed there were many cracks in the screen although the phone was still usable and my boss advised me to order a screen repair kit and leave the phone with him over the Christmas holidays and he'd fix it for me, which he did.

It reminded me of the conversation I'd had with my dad after giving him a revised version of the aforementioned letter. He explained what his upbringing had been like and what he'd been lead to believe love really was when in fact he knew it was anything but that and told me he didn't know how to love because he hadn't been taught. From my boss' actions, I know what love is. I also know that my dad has loved me and been loving me from the moment I was born, probably even before then, it was just in a different way. The only way he knew how to show it.

As a belated birthday present for him and his daughter just before Father's Day this year I insisted on shouting them both lunch at the bistro a few minutes walk from my place. I'd intentionally done it then as a partial Father's Day present for him and made a point to tell him during lunch that I considered him like a father to me. He told me we had a symbiotic employer-employee relationship and that he was just a caring employer but ultimately appreciated the gesture. I couldn't help feeling the teeniest bit jealous when watching how he and his young daughter interacted. He loved her more than anything in the world and it was obvious to even a completely blind person.
I wished I'd had and did have that kind of interaction with my dad, granted I'm now 25 so it might not be entirely age-appropriate, but that doesn't matter really.

After my performance review in which he gave me excellent feedback and I negotiated a pay rise, I decided once again that it was time for me to really start thinking about what I wanted for my future and whether my current job could provide it. I told him a week or so later of my intention to leave at some point in the future but explained as before, that I didn't want to leave it until I had something lined up and was about to leave to tell him, that after everything he'd done for me the least I could do was give him time to process and prepare for my replacement, or rather, someone else to take over my position. I think he's made it abundantly clear that no one could ever replace me.

For my birthday this year, he stopped by with his daughter briefly to drop off a present. A bottle of Versace perfume which I joked (even though it's still fairly true) that it was the most expensive non-technological item I owned. I thanked him for personally delivering it and for giving me something so expensive to start with. He told me genuinely that it was the least he could do and I realized that we're both incredibly grateful to each other the same amount for different reasons.

This year for Christmas my boss gave me one of the best gifts I've ever been given. A Christmas card (with money) that detailed my progress over the year and told me how proud he was of me for what I'd achieved throughout the year and how grateful he is to have me as an employee. After I read it I gave him a kiss and a hug and we both thanked each other. I then told him I was glad that I wasn't finishing up that week otherwise I'd be a complete emotional wreck. I also told him I still didn't have anything lined up for next year which he said he'd assumed since we didn't speak about it since then.
I told him I'd found my new routine  for when there's nothing to do and it was working well for me, I wasn't in a rush to leave when I'd found a new comfy spot as it were. He told me it made perfect sense not to leave when things were going well but knew that it was inevitable at some point and we'd see what the new year brought in.
I reiterated that I wasn't going to leave for just any job, it had to be something that I knew without a shadow of a doubt was what I meant to do next, whatever it might be.
Being caught up in emotion after letting his words sink in, I wanted to tell him simply that I loved him. For being the person he was and how much of an impact he and just his presence has had on my life and for being father my dad couldn't be through no fault of his own. It didn't seem like the most appropriate thing to say, but I hoped that my day to day actions, words and gestures showed him more than my words ever could, just like his had for me.

I remember at my 21st birthday being all dressed up and going all out for it, the one thing I wanted was for my dad to tell me I was beautiful and was sure at one stage he actually would, only to be disappointed when I was terribly wrong. After the party I found the 21st book I'd been gifted by one of my best friends and gave it to mum to sign and then asked dad to sign it as well. He sort of shrugged it off and said that mum signed it for both of them and I took him at his words. It was only a few moments later when I was sitting back in my room reading through what mum had written that I decided that wasn't good enough. I went back out to the study intending to confront, or rather insist that he write a separate message like he used to in the front of books given at birthdays.
He wasn't there but I sat down and wrote a message on the back of an envelope asking him to write something from the heart and telling him that I'd never know if he thought I was beautiful or if he was proud of me if he never told me he was, then left it inside the book for him to find.

On my 22nd birthday he gave it back to me. He wrote a message of a completely different nature telling me I had a personality trait of sorts which meant I had excellent lifelong friendships and it didn't matter how much time had passed, nothing would change the kind of friendship I had with that person. Not exactly what I was expecting and not entirely sure how to take it, I told my best friend at the time about what he'd written and she pointed out that maybe it was my dad's way of saying the things I wanted to hear but he just didn't know how to tell me in the exact words since no one had ever said them to him. He couldn't give me something he didn't have.

Having another father figure who knows you very well and can personally vouch for what you've achieved given that they see you more often than your family does, then having them acknowledge that and tell you how proud they are, it's a completely different feeling. It doesn't take away from what my dad has said or done or even how he shows it, it complements it.

My dad and my boss are two different people, yet in their own ways they've shown, taught and done things for me which I think can only be described as the love of a father. For that I love them both dearly.

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